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Tuesday, 13 May 1980
Page: 2164


Senator BUTTON (Victoria) -The Opposition supports the Australian Bicentenary Authority Bill. The purpose of the Bill has been explained with great diligence by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in his second reading speech. However, I would like to make a few comments about it. The purpose of the Bill is to set in train, as it were, the machinery arrangements for the celebration of 200 years of European settlement in Australia in 1988. I think it is very important when we are considering in 1980 what we will do and what we will in fact celebrate in 1988 in terms of 200 years of European settlement in Australia to consider what we have to celebrate and what, looking from 1980 towards 1988, we might have to celebrate by that time. I think some of the things which are important to consider are questions about the nature of the Australian identity and what sorts of people Australians will see themselves as in 1988. By that I do not mean people with a new parliament on top of Capital Hill and a series of ceremonies which in themselves are not very important. In fact, Dr Armstrong, the person who has been appointed the director of the bicentennial project, has I think already indicated that he wants to give some attention to this question of the Australian identity, the nature of the people we have become in 200 years and what we will in fact be celebrating at that time.

All sorts of things that I think are very cosmetic can be done to have a big sort of festa in 1988- a sort of upgraded Moomba festival- to celebrate 200 years of European settlement in Australia. But I really do not think they go to the core of the matters which we should be considering. I think it is very important for us as a parliament to consider what Australians who are now children but by then will be young adults will be thinking about many of the issues which are of great concern to the whole question of Australia's identity as a nation and its people. One very important matter we should be considering by 1988 is whether in 200 years we have made significant advances in our treatment of the Aboriginal people. That is something which I hope the Bicentennial Committee will address its attention to with great care. I hope it will also address its attention to the nature of the society, in terms of ethnic composition, which will be with us in 1988 and what sort of symbolic allegiances and identities its people will have.


Senator Mulvihill - Do you think there will be an extension of republicanism?


Senator BUTTON - I certainly hope so. It is an issue on which I want to touch in a moment.

Although I do not have Senator Mulvihill 's Irish advantage I am stirred by the same passions in relation to some of those matters. I make one or two points about the policies of the Fraser Government. It confuses the question of what Australians are and what is their identity in the 1980s? Let me give honourable senators a couple of examples of what I mean. Australia is one of the few countries which does not have a national anthem with which the people of the country can identify. We have, I think it is called the national anthem, God Save the Queen. It is a sort of relic from an imperial past, a song with words which are in my view absolutely meaningless to the average Australian and indeed reprehensible in terms of their imperialist and racist overtones.


Senator Wriedt - What about Come On Aussie, Come On"!


Senator BUTTON - We have songs such as Come On Aussie, Come On which are inventions of commercial magnates in Australia which I will deal with in a minute seeing that Senator Wriedt has interjected showing his concern about that problem. I put it to the Senate very seriously that in 1980- the position will still be the same in 1988- Australia is one country which does not have an identifiable national anthem. When we ask children what is the national anthem of Australia or what is the national song of Australia- the terminology being so confusingthey cannot tell us.


Senator Knight - It should be Waltzing Matilda.


Senator BUTTON -Of course it should. There is very great confusion about that problem. In terms of what the Bicentennial celebrations will be about it is very confusing and belittling for a country like this. So we have this compromise business, having a divided nation. God Save the Queen is kept for all the Tory relics from England that we have in this country and that rather silly song, in terms of some of its words, Advance Australia Fair is for the rest of us. The two do not in any sense come together. We have the ridiculous situation of two songs being played at some functions. Nowhere else in the world does that happen. It is silly. The Bicentennial Committee should give attention to that question.

Most of these problems are due to the conservative hang-ups of conservative politicians in Australia. Even honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber such as Senator Lewis know the situation is quite ridiculous. We also have two systems of honours which are applicable in Australia. Our worthy President here is luxuriating in an imperial honour. I congratulate him. If I omitted to do so at the time he was knighted I am sorry. The Minister opposite, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, is luxuriating in an imperial honour. With the greatest respect to her, it is a silly thing for a Minister in an Australian government in 1 980 to have. We have a system of Orders of Australia. Other people are recipients of those Orders. That is quite silly. It is exactly the same as the national anthem situation. We have two systems of honours in Australia- one for the minute residual hang-ups of conservative politicians and one which is of more relevance to the mass of Australian people. We have two totally confusing situations about what we get by way of reward if one has been a good boy or a good girl in Australia and about what one sings at the ceremony giving one the particular honour which one might be the recipient of. Both those things are silly. They are matters which should be resolved before the bicentennial celebrations take place.

In pursuit of the same sort of diverse and confusing mythologies the present Government is distributing national flags, cassettes of the national anthem, the national song and, if you please, pictures of the Queen in order that kids in Australian schools might be even more confused than they are now. I find it extraordinary to refer to the statement made by the Minister announcing the program of distributing these items. He said:

The proper and dignified use of the national flag can only encourage national consciousness . . . 'special recordings' have been made of the National Anthem, 'God Save the Queen ' and the National Tune, 'Advance Australia Fair' on cassettes ... the Queen has given approval for the distribution of new colour photographs taken at Buckingham Palace which show her Majesty wearing an insignia of the Order of Australia. Prints of the new photograph will be made available to schools, groups and organisations which will display the photograph in a proper and dignified manner ... I have spoken about Government initiatives concerning three matters -

This is the important thing- which identify the Australian people and our nation.

With the greatest respect, that is a lot of rubbish because they do exactly the converse. They do not identify the Australian people and the Australian nation. They confuse and divide the Australian people and the Australian nation. I say to Senator Mulvihill that I find it very sad in this day and age that one of the nicest things we can do for Australian kids in multicultural schools is to send them pictures of the Queen which will be hung, according to the Minister's instructions, in a dignified manner. I suppose that means not upside down.


Senator Cavanagh - Or excluding certain places.


Senator BUTTON -Yes. Whatever that means it seems to me to be an extraordinary confusing thing and one which I think is very much resented by a number of members of migrant communities in Australia.


Senator Mulvihill - Didn't the referendum give Advance Australia Fair about 60 per cent or more of the voters ' choice?


Senator BUTTON -That is right. As in all referendums, the figures have been queried. I must say for the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- if I can insert a kind word- that he supported Waltzing Matilda. In his case it was because he saw himself as the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred. But as a matter of fact he did go in to bat for Waltzing Matilda as the appropriate song, a decision with which I entirely concur. The point I am making is that we have the worst of both worlds. We have two songs. We have two systems of honours. We have these give aways like show bag stuff of school children which represents this very great confusion about which we ought to be concerned as we approach a bicentennial celebration.

I think these things are important from the point of view of the general quest to grapple with the problems of Australian identity, a multicultural society and the appropriateness of a country calling itself a young country when it is cluttered with all of this imperial rubbish from the past. That is a very real problem of confusion with which I think we ought to be concerned. But the present Government has compounded these problems not only by having the sort of campaigns to which I have referred but also more recently by having campaigns on television and elsewhere which are directed specifically to helping us to find an Australian identity. So there are programs like 'Life. Be In It' which are allegedly related to good health, most devious campaigns upon which the Government spends taxpayers' money. We have the campaigns which Senator Wriedt referred to like 'Come On Aussie, Come On' and things of that kind which are really the product of the commercial world. We have the attraction by the Prime Minister, expressed publicly, to songs like Come On Aussie, Come On.


Senator Lewis - Come on; the Press Gallery members are on strike.


Senator BUTTON - So are you, Senator. You are on strike, too. You have been yawning away there. The Prime Minister has already expressed his attraction for songs like Come on Aussie, Come On, because for him they identify some

Volk geist, as the Germans call it, some spirit of the Australian people, which is very much nonexistent in my view, in relation to these sorts of issues.

More recently we have had the Project Australia campaign on which this Government is committed to spending $4m, and its purpose is stated in the brochure which the Project Australia campaign distributed. It states:

To generate a positive sense of community purpose as a basis for a re-invigorated Australia.

The question is: Around what? What is the nature of the consensus? What is the nature of the agreement about the identity of Australians and the common purpose which they share after five years of Fraser Government? I suggest to the Senate that it is in fact very hard to find. One looks at the purpose of the Project Australia campaign as it appears on television, on the beer glasses and on the T-shirts. It is defined by the advertising agency in these terms: to get a consensus on questions of nationalism and national purpose . . .

It goes on:

Other patriotic campaigns (such as 'Come on Aussie', Channel 10's 'Have a Go' and 'Don't Rubbish Australia') are striking a responsive chord, as is almost any appeal for national vanity.

The advertising agency says:

If we can encapsulate and focus these feelings, what 'Life Be In It' is doing for the national physique, Project Australia can do for the national psyche.

Of course, that begs a number of questions about the nature of campaigns like 'Come on Aussie' and so on. It begs a lot of questions about the results of campaigns like 'Life. Be In It' because there is an interesting correlation between the amount spent on 'Life. Be In It' and the statistics regarding national health in Australia. All of the surveys show that fitness is getting worse, more money is being spent on the 'Life. Be In It' program, and everybody watches and the average Australian now identifies with Norm, if honourable senators please, the character who watches television and who sits at home rather than participating in any physical activity.


Senator Grimes - Do you, Senator?


Senator BUTTON - I do not have to identify with Norm. 'Norm' is my second name. I do not think that is a fair interjection, Senator Grimes. I will have you called to order. The Project Australia brochure, of course, shows the Prime Minister giving a thumbs up sign on the cover. We are enjoined, as it were, to look to our national psyche- enjoined by advertising agencies which are getting $4m from the Government over the next three years to put a lot of this silly garbage on television. I ask the question again: What is the consensus? What is the agreement about which we have determined as a Parliament? It has never been put to the Parliament, in fact, but what has the Government determined. What is the agreement about which we have a consensus on the question of Australia's national identity that we can spend that amount of money on promoting it? If one looks at the advertising jingles of campaigns like the Project Australia campaign, one will see that they are quite pernicious because in the end they will result in very great cynicism on the part of people who are in some ways taken in by those advertisements.

What they are in fact saying is that if everybody works hard, if everybody hits their nail right on the head, as the jingle says, somehow Australia will become a great country. What those jingles are in fact saying is: 'Look, the Fraser Government has abdicated responsibility for all these questions which involve national leadership'. We have put those questions in the hands of an advertising agency to resolve for us. They will enjoin the Australian people to work harder. They will encourage them to be more patriotic. That will be done by way of commercial message, but it will not be done by the people who, in 1975, aspired to leadership of this country and promised to resolve the disunity and the conflict which they said existed in this society at that time.

Five years later we have a much more divided country than we have ever had before and we have this amount of money being spent by a Government which has failed in respect of every initiative which it took relating to national leadership and national unity, and is resorting to advertising agencies which tell people by television jingles: 'All these problems, mate'- if I may use the jargon- 'are really your fault. You sitting out there watching the TV is what is wrong with the country. You do not work hard enough. You are not patriotic enough. That is why Australia is going bad. ' That is what the advertising jingles are saying. Those are things which are trying to divert attention from the inadequacies and the failures of this Government. It is a pernicious campaign and a totally wrong expenditure of taxpayers' money for the Australian people to be told in commercial jingles that they are slobs and that the country is going bad because of them.


Senator Rae - Tut, tut!


Senator BUTTON -Senator Rae goes 'tut, tut' and nods his head. I will be interested to hear his arguments in relation to this matter. That is precisely what is involved in these sorts of programs. I invite senators to consider what has in fact been put forward in those jingles, and I defy anybody really to mount successfully an argument which contradicts what I say, that those jingles of the Project Australia campaign are directed at putting the blame for national leadership on the Australian people as against the Government. That is an extraordinary attitude as we approach the Australian bicentennial. That is an extraordinary approach to solving questions of consensus in society, of leadership and of direction.

Many senators will have seen the jingle which deals with the question of what are called the grumblers. Grumblers are the enemies of Australian society, according to the Project Australia jingle. The implication of that jingle, of course, is that people who criticise are enemies of Australian society. There are lines in that jingle which state:

.   . let's knock off knocking and give ourselves a go. Let's have a bash, have a shot, be on the ball and on the dot. Let 's pull together with all our weight if we 're going to make Australia great.

Let's advance Australia and give it all we've got.

That is what the people in Australia are enjoined to do by these advertising jingles. They are precisely the things which Malcolm Fraser said that he would do if he became Prime Minister of Australia, the national leader of this country, in 1 975. He said: 'A government for all the people '. No more disunity in society! These problems would be solved!

Let us have a look at a letter on this very issue from one grumbler which was published in the Melbourne Age on 3 1 January of this year. He was writing about a debate which was taking place in that paper on the nature of the Australian flag. He wrote:

It is obvious that Australia is in the midst of an economic depression. The current patriotic advertising campaigns illustrate how concerned the Government is about the Australian people's morale.

True- very true! They are concerned. He went on to state:

What is there to be so proud of? I have been unemployed for seven months and have nothing to be proud of. How can Australia be proud when such a large percentage of her population is unemployed?

The Government and big business should try spending more money on solving the unemployment and other problems rather than covering them up.

That is, covering them up with advertising jingles. He went on to say:

So here we are, expected to wave our Australian flags even though some of us can "t afford them.

It is signed 'S. Bennet, Glenhuntly'. I do not know S. Bennet, Glenhuntly, but I think he has a reasonable point when one looks at the matter in the context of his money being spent, as a taxpayer, on these sorts of programs.


Senator Rae - He is a crypto-communist.


Senator BUTTON - I do not care if he is a crypto-communist or a fascist, Senator Rae. He is unemployed and he is an Australian.

Debate interrupted.







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